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The Biz Roundup January 11

It takes real talent to sink a 250 year old company.

Deloitte, the adminstrator of Waterford Wedgwood, announced yesterday it had signed a “letter of intent” with specialist US distressed fund KPS Capital to sell the global business.

KPS, which once owned a German company, but currently invests only in North America, declined to comment on whether it would continue to employ any of Waterford Wedgwood’s 1,900 British employees who work at its factory in Barlaston, Stoke-on-Trent and its retail stores.

(“Waterford Wedgwood set for sale to US fund,” The London Times, January 8)Josiah Wedgewood single-handedly invented what we now call marketing a quarter-century ago, dreaming up inventions like direct marketing, door-to-door sales, cataloging, and even celebrity endorsements (well, royal endorsements). You can’t blame this one on the recession. The current management couldn’t market water in a desert. But they could borrow money like there was no tomorrow.

I bet Alan Mulalley is happy he left Boeing for Ford now. Oh, wait, scratch that.

Boeing, whose commercial airplane headquarters is still in Seattle, announced that it will eliminate 4,500 jobs from that commercial work force in 2009, with 60-day layoff notices going out next month.

Most of the jobs will be in the Puget Sound area, where Boeing assembles its jetliners. But for the most part, the job positions to be cut will not be unionized Machinists or engineers but rather administrative positions and what the company described as employees in “overhead functions.”

(“Boeing to slash 4,500 jobs,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, January 9) It’s always overhead that gets their heads chopped off (guess that’s why they call it overhead, because it’s hanging off the chopping block). Seven years ago, Boeing laid of 30,000 after the September 11 attacks, so things could be worse. But it’s not like Boeing rehired those 30,000; they’re still close to a workforce of 60,000.

As Boeing goes, so goes Cessna. Was Dana Andrews at the controls of this thing?

Cessna Aircraft Co. told workers Monday that it will lay off an additional 2,000 employees across its facilities, saying the job cuts are necessary to ensure its long-term stability and success.

The layoffs were not entirely unexpected. The company told its employees last week that it was planning a second round of cuts, a month after it issued 60-day layoff notices to about 500 Wichita employees and 165 workers in Bend, Ore.

(“Cessna to lay off 2,000 workers’,” Kansas City Star, January 12) Human Resources emailed the news to its workers. As The Joker says in The Dark Knight, “Even to a guy like me, that’s cold.” Perhaps they can post the actual layoff notices on Craig’s List?

Would you like to super-size those profits?

It wasn’t too long ago that McDonald’s, vilified as making people fat, was written off as irrelevant. Now, six years into a rebound spawned by more appealing food and a less aggressive expansion, McDonald’s seems to have won over some of its most hardened skeptics.

The chain has managed to sustain its momentum even as the economy and the restaurant industry as a whole are struggling. Month after month, McDonald’s has surprised analysts by posting stronger-than-expected sales in the United States and abroad.

(“At McDonald’s, the Happiest Meal Is Hot Profits ,” New York Times, January 11) The recession is devestating the restaurant industry. But McDonald’s has always been popular in lower economic classes because of its prices. As more people enter (or fear to enter) the lower economic classes, McDonalds and its ilk will profit very nicely.

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